Constitution and protocol for the Chairman and Vice Chairman
The Chairman's Office is the first point of contact when arranging any event that involves the Chairman of the authority.
When arranging any event, please contact the Chairman's office as soon as possible. We can then advise you if the Chairman can attend the event.
The Chairman represents the principal authority in County Durham and, as a general rule, he/she should take precedence over representatives from parish and town councils.
Only Her Majesty The Queen, any members of the Royal Family or HM Lord-Lieutenant of the county, and the High Sheriff take precedence over the county council's Chairman at events.
If speeches take place, the host usually speaks first and this is followed by the principal guest (the Chairman). It is always helpful for the Chairman to have background briefing notes and suggested points if a speech is required - this is arranged through the Chairman's Office when we receive the invitation.
On arrival at events, the Chairman should be greeted by the host or, if this is not possible, by his or her representative. It is good practice to allocate someone to accompany the Chairman throughout the visit if the host is otherwise engaged.
If the event is a dinner, then the Chairman (or Lord-Lieutenant if present), would sit on the right of the host.
A guidance note on civic protocol is available to event organisers:
Under Article Five of the council's constitution, the responsibilities of the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the council are:
- To uphold and promote the purposes of the constitution and to interpret the constitution where necessary.
- To preside over meetings of the council so that its business can be carried out efficiently and with regard to the rights of the councillors and the interests of the community.
- To ensure that the council meeting is a forum for the debate of matters of concern to the local community and the place at which Members that are not on the executive are able to hold the executive to account.
- To promote public involvement in the council's activities.
- To be the conscience of the council.
- To attend or be represented at such civic and ceremonial functions as the council determines appropriate.
- To determine any matter referred to him/her under the urgency provisions of the Access to Information Procedure Rules or the Budget and Policy Framework Procedure Rules in part four of the constitution.
- To be consulted on any matter in relation to which consultation with the Chairman of the council is required under this/her constitution.
During the period of office, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman will undertake the following roles:
- The promotion of County Durham as a place to live and visit.
- The promotion of Durham County Council acting as host to official visitors to the county.
- Attending civic and ceremonial functions and local community activities as the council and he/she determines appropriate.
- Representing the council at ceremonial events.
- Acting as the council's representative on other occasions as determined by the council.
- To support and raise funds for a chosen charity.
When fulfilling this role, it is essential that the Chairman and Vice Chairman adhere to the protocol with a view to ensuring:
- That public funds are not wasted and council contract and financial regulations are not breached.
- That the office is one of ambassador for the council and does not bring it into disrepute.
- That officers providing support are not compromised.
While in the roles, it is expected that the Chairman and Vice Chairman reduce their political profiles. They need to display even-handedness in political matters during the year. It would be inappropriate for an individual to be associated with a contentious issue, election processes or policy matters while they are Chairman. However, the Chair and Vice Chair will continue to be expected to act on behalf of the constituents within their electoral divisions.
When chairing the council, they will adopt an even-handed approach and show no favour or disfavour to any party. They should allow and assist fair debate, and acquire a good working knowledge of the council procedure rules to deal with issues with authority.
The Chairman of the council will:
- Provide strong, fair and visible civic and ceremonial leadership to the council and in relation to citizens, stakeholders and partners.
- Attend or be represented at such civic and ceremonial functions as the council or he/she determines appropriate.
- Be an ambassador for the council and the county, both at home and abroad.
- Promote public involvement in the council's activities.
- Uphold and promote the council's constitution and interpret the constitution when necessary.
- Preside over meetings of the council so that its business can be carried out efficiently and with regard to the rights of councillors and the interests of the community.
- Request such additional meetings of the council as may be considered necessary or appropriate.
- Ensure the council meeting is a forum for the debate of matters of concern to the local community and a place at which Members who are not on the Executive can hold the Executive to account.
- Be consulted on any matter in relation to which consultation with the Chairman of the council is required under the constitution.
- Determine any matter referred to him/her under the urgency provisions of the Access to Information Procedure Rules or the Budget and Policy Framework Procedure Rules in the Council's Constitution.
The Vice-Chairman of the council will:
- Undertake a full deputising role in the absence of the Chairman.
- Undertake specific tasks and responsibilities as requested by the Chairman.
- Share and support in general the full workload range of the Chairman.